Artist:  Avantasia
   Title: The Scarecrow
   Label: Frontiers Records

This is another band who have escaped my radar, having already released two albums, Avatasia – The Metal Opera pt 1 & 2. As yet I haven’t had a chance to pick these releases up, but judging by 'The Scarecrow', I will be very soon.  This album is already marked down as one of my top albums of 2008, yes it is that good, and it will take something special to erase it from the top 5 come the end of the year.

'The Scarecrow' is ambitious, grandiose and epic, the songs exploring the journey of said Scarecrow.  All music and lyrics were written by the man himself, Tobias Sammet, vocalist/frontman of german band Edguy.  All the songs have elements of traditional, symphonic, thrash and power metal with a hard rock base, lots of melody and powerful performances from all musicians involved throughout.

Speaking of performances, the line-up is a who’s who in the world of rock, along with Tobias we have Eric Singer (Kiss/Alice Cooper)on drums, Henjo Richter and Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray) Rudolf Schenker (Scorpions) and Sascha Paeth on guitars and Roy Khan (Kamelot), Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween), Alice Cooper, Bob Catley, Oliver Hartmann and Amanda Somerville providing vocals.

'Twisted Mind' opens the proceedings, featuring Roy Khan on vocals.  An eastern influenced intro gives way to Mr Khan’s warm tones before Tobias kicks in with a truly operatic delivery.  The guitars and drums are big and bombastic, with some great hooks.

Then we’re onto the title track, 'The Scarecrow', along with Tobias we have the incredidle vocal talent of Jorn Lande.  A celtic influenced opening leads us into a truly epic song, clocking in at over 11 minutes.  A huge, anthemic chorus and the celtic feel and orchestration of the song make this a standout and favourite track on the album.  The middle section allows Sascha Paeth to lay down some beautiful guitar passages.

'Shelter From The Rain' sees Michael Kiske putting his vocal talent to good use, the man may not like metal but he still has the voice.  This song also sees Bob Catley’s first appearance, and an excellent vocal performance.  This a fast-paced song, very reminiscent of Kiske era Helloween, featuring Kai Hansen and Henjo Richter is probably the reason why, verging on being a classic tune.

'Carry Me Over' sees Tobias taking on the whole song.  This is a slower tune, very commercial with a contemporary feel, think Harem Scarem over their last three albums, very catchy and infectious with a great hook.

'What Kind Of Love' is up next, featuring Amanda Somerville in the main with contributions from Michael Kiske and Tobias.  This is a powerful and emotive song, conjuring up images of Enya from the beginning.  A fantastic emotional vocal delivery from Tobias could have been over the top but with Mr Kiske providing a few vocal lines, keps it in check.

Then we’re onto 'Another Angel Down', slamming through the speakers, Jorn Lande unleashes his trademark vocal.  This is another standout and fave track on the album, frenetic and powerful, with some tasty guitar work from Sascha Paeth and Henjo Richter.

This takes us into 'The Toy Master', with Alice Cooper and Tobias sharing vocals.  The structure on this song is fantastic, great hooks and outstanding riffs abound .  Lyrically the song was made for Alice but a more operatic performance by any other vocalist would have made this THE standout track on the album.

Next up is 'Devil In The Belfry', with Jorn Lande paired up with Tobias once more.  Another fast-paced, double kick drum led tune with some great Gamma Ray guitars courtesy of Henjo.

Onto another standout track, 'Cry Just A Little', Tobias duetting with the masterful Bob Catley.  A beautiful power ballad, the vocal performance elevating the song to another dimension.  A fabulous vocal performance, Bob Catley just gets better with age.

'I Don’t Believe In Your Love' sees Rudolph Schenker make an appearance. Stamping his mark from the off, a total Scorpions riff beating at the heart of the song.  Oliver Hartmann sounds like a young Coverdale, more controlled than Tobias, who really goes for it vocally.

And here we are at the climax of the album, 'Lost In Space'.  The intro sounds familiar but I just can’t put my finger on it.  Amanda Somerville augments Tobias’ vocals, an inspired pairing on such a melodic song.  Looking at the concept as a whole, this song feels a bit lightweight to bring a climatic end to what I feel is such a substatial piece of work, but it has a catchy chorus and a contemporary feel. 

A couple of personal gripes apart, this is a fantastic album, a stellar cast of musos, great production, solid muscianship, fantastic songwriting and excellent performances from the individual vocalists.  Can’t wait for the next instalment!!

*Review by Brassy

Tracklisting:

1 Twisted Mind
2 The Scarecrow
3 Shelter From The Rain
4 Carry Me Over
5 What Kind Of Love
6 Another Angel Down
7 The Toy Master
8 Devil In The Belfry
9 Cry Just A Little
10 I Don't Believe In Your Love
11. Lost In Space

                  

 

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